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Birds of the Western Slope April 13, 2016

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Photo by Michael Andersen©, Cornell University American White Pelican

Spring?

Yes! Spring is here! Our pelicans are back! Jim Wallace reported them on Sunday night and I viewed them from Crane Point on Monday -- I counted 22 birds. They were a long way off, gathered around the far eastern shore but I reveled in their presence. They're magnificent birds with a wing-span of over nine feet! With wings like that, they can fly wherever they want!

People are often surprised when I mention our pelicans at Hart's Basin. They seem to associate these birds with the ocean, and I remind them that the ocean pelicans are the Brown Pelicans. They catch fish by diving -- spectacular! I had the good fortune to travel to Texas for the Whooping Crane Festival a number of years ago and the Brown Pelicans were a "must see" bird. They were everywhere -- sitting on posts, drifting along in the Gulf, and snoozing in the parking lots.

And then there are the Australian Pelicans. I learned about them as I prepared for a talk and found them fascinating. The back appears to be black with beautiful over-laying plumes of white, the pink bill is huge (over 40 centimeters or three feet long). The eye is yellow and they're known as the world's heaviest flying bird. These birds breed inland or along coasts and they prefer islands (as do ours).

Interestingly, all of the world's pelicans are scientifically grouped as Pelicanus, and there are eight species. Ours are Pelicanus erythrorhynchos. I know that erythro means "red" and rhynochos means "nose", or bill? But I don't see red, maybe reddish or orange. And such details keep me wondering! But the other pelicans: The Dalmatian lives in Eurasia, the Danube in North Africa and India, the Peruvian is along the South American coast, the Arabia lives in Africa and Madagascar, while the Potted-billed lives in southeast Asia. And I think how grand it would be to meet them in their natural habitats! But for now, I'll be content studying and admiring our American white pelicans at Hart's Basin.



Cranes total = 11,400 as of Thursday, April 7.

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Birds of the Western Slope, Evelyn Horn
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